By Chris Rossetti
CLARION, Pa. – The last time the Redbank Valley boys’ basketball team was in the District 9 championship game, sophomore Sam Heeter was just a twinkle in his parent’s eyes.
But on Tuesday night, Heeter, the Bulldogs sophomore guard, hit a decisive 3-pointer with 1:47 to go in overtime that spearheaded a 46-40 overtime win for Redbank Valley over Keystone in the District 9 Class AA semifinals at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym.
Heeter’s triple gave top-seeded Redbank Valley the lead for good, 40-38, and started a 9-2 game-ending run that sent the Bulldogs to the D9 title game for the first time since 1991.
“I have a love-hate relations ship with Sam,” Redbank Valley head coach Greg Bean said. “That was a big three he hit. That (shot) was kind of a relief (for us). These guys kind of relaxed and started playing. I thought that was great.”
Heeter, who scored 10 points – eight after halftime, was also clutch late in regulation for Redbank Valley sinking a pair of free throws after getting fouled following an offensive rebound with 55 seconds left to tie the game at 35.
“He was kind of in la-la land in the first half,” Bean said. “But he stayed with it. He could have hung his head a lot of times.”
While Heeter was the offensive hero late for the Bulldogs, he also committed a foul with just less than five seconds to play that gave fifth-seeded Keystone a chance to win the game.
After his free throws had tied the contest, the Panthers played for the last shot, and Heeter fouled Keystone’s Adam Lencer, who finished with a game-high 22 points, with 4.something on the clock at the top of the circle before Lencer was able to get any traction towards the basket.
“It was the right call,” Bean said. “We knew (Lencer) was going to shoot the ball. We went into that Diamond and One (defense). We knew we had helper coming in. Sam just got a little too aggressive. Lencer was bumping, we were bumping, they let a couple go. But if we keep bumping, they have to call it. They have to blow the whistle at some point.”
Lencer, who entered the game as the third in District 9 in scoring at 21.5 ppg, was probably the last Panther Redbank Valley wanted at the line. But the senior missed the free throw, and Zach Westover pulled down the rebound for Redbank Valley sending the game to overtime.
“No, I wasn’t comfortable with Lencer at the line,” Bean said. “But it was just one of those things. Luck was kind of with us.”
In overtime, the lead switched hands twice before Heeter’s 3-point put Redbank in the lead for good.
Devin Shumaker, who had a team-high 14 points to go with three assists, gave the Bulldogs a four-point lead, 42-38, with 56 seconds left before a pair of Lencer free throws with 40 seconds to play got Keystone back within two.
But Zach Westover, who had a monster game with 11 points, 19 rebounds and four blocked shots, put Redbank Valley back up by four with a layup with 30 seconds to play, and Westover and Heeter each hit free throws late to seal the victory.
“We found a way to win,” Bean said. “Good teams find a way to win those games. It wasn’t by far even close to our best. Keystone took us out of everything we wanted to do. But, what can I say, we found a way to win somehow.”
Redbank Valley led by six, 25-19, two minutes into the second half before Keystone went on a 13-1 run paced by four points each from Lencer and Cameron Henry to take its biggest lead of the game, 32-26, on a Lencer jumper 48 seconds into the fourth quarter.
“We became stagnant on offense,” Bean said. “Our shot selection wasn’t great.”
With its offense in a funk, Redbank Valley turned to its defense to get back into the game limiting Keystone without a field goal over the next three minutes while closing to within one, 32-31, with a 5-0 spurt that included a 3-pointer by Devin Shumaker moments after the Lencer jumper.
“Everybody stepped up in those last few minutes and said we want to cover,” Bean said. “It was just scramble, scramble, scramble and foul anyone but Lencer.”
Keystone, which hasn’t been to a District 9 title game in seven seasons, had a chance to seal the win from the free-throw line, but 3 of 4 free throws, including Lencer’s miss with the game tied, in the final 1:22.
Heeter, meanwhile, went 4-for-4 from the line in the final 3:12 of regulation and finished the game 5 of 6.
Redbank Valley, which hasn’t won a District 9 title since taking the Class AA crown in 1980, will face Brookville in the championship game at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Tippin Gym. The teams split a pair of regular-season games.
“Nineteen-eighty is before my time,” Bean said. “It’s before all (the players) times. It’s before every coach on the staffs’ time. It’s one of those things, we are believing. I told them before the season it was doable. They all kind of laughed at me. We had a meeting last week, and everybody said it’s doable. It’s within reach. We knew it was going to be easy. Anytime in the playoffs, you face adversity. You have to find a way to come up and make some plays. I thought we did that in the last quarter.”
NOTES – Redbank Valley beat Keystone three times this year. The other two wins were by 20 and 15 points … In the 1991 title game, Redbank Valley lost to Brockway 68-59. The Bulldogs also lost to Elk County Christian (now Catholic) 52-49 in 1983 after beating Kane 68-56 in 1980. All those games were Class AA title games … Redbank Valley also won the 1975 Class B (in a 3-classification A-B-C- system) over Johnsonburg 75-60. Those are the only title-game appearances in school history.
REDBANK VALLEY 46, KEYSTONE 40, overtime
Keystone…………………. 9 10 11 5 5 – 40
Redbank Valley……………. 12 9 5 9 11 – 46
KEYSTONE – 40
LENCER, Adam 8-24 5-8 22; GRAF, Alex 1-9 5-7 7; WOLBERT, Ryan 1-4 1-3 4; HENRY, Cameron 2-3 0-0 4; HAINES, Tim 1-4 0-0 3; SHERRY, Micah 0-5 0-0 0; SHICK, Brayden 0-0 0-0 0; COURSON, Jake 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-49 11-18 40.
REDBANK VALLEY – 46
SHUMAKER, Devin 5-13 3-4 14; WESTOVER, Zach 5-8 1-2 11; HEETER, Sam 2-9 5-6 10; DOUGHERTY, Jake 3-8 0-2 8; BROCIOUS, Quintin 1-3 0-0 3; DOUGHERTY, Dalton 0-1 0-0 0; NEISWONGER, Khorey 0-1 0-0 0; BROWN, Donnie 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 16-45 9-14 46.
3-point goals–Keystone 3-16 (WOLBERT, Ryan 1-2; HAINES, Tim 1-3; LENCER, Adam 1-7; SHERRY, Micah 0-2; HENRY, Cameron 0-1; GRAF, Alex 0-1), Redbank Valley 5-18 (DOUGHERTY, Jake 2-6; SHUMAKER, Devin 1-4; HEETER, Sam 1-4; BROCIOUS, Quintin 1-3; BROWN, Donnie 0-1).
Rebounds–Keystone 30 (GRAF, Alex 8), Redbank Valley 44 (WESTOVER, Zach 19).
Assists–Keystone 4 (GRAF, Alex 2), Redbank Valley 8 (SHUMAKER, Devin 3).